Dr. Chad Black
The University of Tennessee
Spring 2012
Class Meetings: Tuesdays, 3:35-6:05

Office: 2626 Dunford Hall
Office Hours: Monday, 1:00-3:00 or by appt.

Email: cblack6 -at- utk.edu

Table of Contents



This course is the first semester of a three-term sequence designed to introduce you to the basics of history and history-writing in theory and practice. At the end of this sequence, you will have produced your own honors thesis, but before we get there we need to learn how to read critically, write analytically, and to understand more fully what it means to be trained as a historian. Throughout the course of this semester, we will emphasize the skills and techniques used in historical research, as well as those applied to the specific needs of different kinds of historical writing. Through a series of focused assignments, aimed at exposing you to a variety of reading, thinking, and writing skills, we will grapple with the three main challenges that face all historians: identifying historical problems, deciding what methodologies are best suited to that problem, and locating and using primary sources needed for analyzing that problem.

In addition to our specific assignments, this course is designed to introduce you to historical sources readily available from Knoxville, and to help you come up with a topic for research and writing for next year. The topic should be both doable and interesting to you within the confines of our three-semester series. By the end of this semester you should, 1. Better understand what is required to undertake historical work; 2. Have a better skill set to tackle such work; and, 3. Have the core of a project to take into next year.

This course is still an introduction to research methods, and as such is not a comprehensive overview of every approach to historical work. It is not comprehensive from geographical, temporal, methodological, or subject perspectives. But, I do hope you will come away with a set of historical and historiographic problems you are interested in pursuing.

Format N.B.: This is a participation-intensive seminar. We are a small group, and it is imperative that each of you come to our weekly meetings completely prepared. Seminar sessions are devoted to discussions of our readings and the broader issues, theoretical and empirical, raised by those sources. We will be meeting once a week, and much of your work will be done outside of class. The burden of time management is thus on you.

Required readings:

The following books are available for purchase at the bookstore (you might be able to get them cheaper here):

  • Gaddis, John. The Landscape of History. Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Linenthal, Edward and Tom Engelhardt. History Wars. Holt, 1996.
  • Presnell, Jenny. The Information-Literate Historian. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Other readings are hosted here on the course website, or available in electronic form through the library website. Finding information online is a premium skill for researchers in the 21st century. For readings that exist in databases our Library subscribes to (JSTOR, ProjectMUSE, etc.), I won't be directly linking to or providing the article. It's your responsibility to find the journal, and then the article, using the library website.


  1. Participation. This is a participation-intensive seminar. In order for it to work well, we all must come to class prepared to discuss the readings. While I do not have an explicit attendance policy for the class, you simply need to be here every week, ready to work hard. Participation will also include reading and reviewing your classmate's work as small writing groups for each of the three main writing assignments.

  2. Weekly Blog Posts. (20%) The lion's share of your writing for this class will be done on your own blog. Each of you must register a free blog on wordpress, and provide me that information before our second meeting on the form here. Blog posts will consist of both freeform reactions to and analysis of our weekly readings and discussions, or short essays on specific prompts. Your participation grade will be determined by your weekly posts. All told, you are responsible for writing 12 posts. I firmly believe that education is a communal process, that benefits greatly from a group dynamic. The demands of such an approach to the educational process live in tension with the right to educational privacy. In order to balance those contending tendencies, you may run your blog under a pseudonym. I only ask that you let me know what it is!

  3. Historical Problem. (20%) Chose a secondary source (book required) related to your general topic and identity the historical problem(s) it grapples with, assess the strength and weaknesses of the piece, and analyze its structure, argument and standards of evidence. 4 pages. Due 28 Feb. Assignment Sheet here.

  4. Historical Method. (25%) Chose a secondary source (article required) related to your general topic and identify the historical methods it grapples with, assess its strengths and weaknesses with respect to how it links sources and arguments, and discuss its object of research. 4 pages. Due 13 March. Assignment Sheet here.

  5. Primary Source Analysis. (25%) Choose a primary source related to your general topic. This should b e discrete and well-bouded, of a manageable length, and should bear more or less on the topic you want to pursue next year. Write a critical reivew of the source. 4 pages. Due 17 April.

  6. Archival Resource Description.(10%) Locate, annotate and present information to the class on an archive resource pertinent to your project. Due 1 May.

Written assignments should be double-spaced, with 1-inch margins, 12-pt. font, and utilize Turabian-style foot- or endnotes.

Other course policies

disabilities Qualified students with disabilities needing appropriate academic adjustments should contact me as soon as possible to ensure your needs are met in a timely manner with appropriate documentation.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism occurs when someone knowingly or unknowingly presents another person's words or ideas as his or her own. Any work turned in for this class must meet University standards for academic honesty. Any students unsure about how to apply these rules are urged to consult with me prior to turning in any written work.

Deadlines: Assignments that are due in class must be turned in at the start of class. If you anticipate problems, please contact me before the assignment is due, not after!

Office Hours: Students are strongly encouraged to speak with me outside of class. I am available during office hours on a first-come, first-served basis. If you cannot come during office hours, please contact me via email or phone to schedule an appointment.

Schedule and Readings

Week 1 | Introduction

17 January

Week 2 | Historiography 1

24 January

  1. The Modern Historiography Reader Part 1: The historian's task. Pp. 1-50.
  2. The Modern Historiography Reader Part 5: Historicism, the historian's craft, and the new century. Pp. 159-194.
  3. William Cronon, "Getting Ready to Do History," Carnegie Essays on the Doctorate, Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, Carnegie Foundation, Palo Alto, 2004, 1-18.

Week 3 | Historiography 2

31 January

Blog: Group 1
Comment: Group 2
Discussion: Group 3


  1. Gaddis, The Landscape of History, all.
  2. The Modern Historiography Reader Part 8: Marxism and history from below. Pp. 267-308.
  3. The Modern Historiography Reader Part 12: Anthropological description and objects of history. Pp. 421-461.

Week 4 | The Historical Problem 1: The Object of Research

7 February

Blog: Group 4
Comment: Group 5
Discussion: Group 1


  1. Jenny Presnell, Information-Literate Historian, Introduction, Chapter 1.
  2. Leslie Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973 (Berkeley: Univ of California Press, 1987): Introduction, Chapters 1-3.
  3. William H. Sewell, "A Theory of Structure: Duality, Agency, and Transformation," The American Journal of Sociology, 98.1 (1992): 1-29.

Week 5 | Historical Problem II: The Subject of Argument

14 February

Blog: Group 2
Comment: Group 3
Discussion: Group 4


  1. Booth, et. al. The Craft of Research, sections 3-4.
  2. E.P. Thompson, "The Moral Economy of the English crowd in the Eighteenth Century," Past and Present 50 (Feb. 1971): 76-136.
  3. Kimberly Guaderman, "A Loom of Her Own: Women and Textiles in Seventeenth Century Quito," Colonial Latin American Review (Dec. 2004): 47-63.

Week 6 | Group Editing

21 February

No class. Meet with your writing group and review/edit each others' papers.

Week 7 | Controversies

28 February

Historical Problem Paper Due!!

Blog: Group 3
Comment: Group 4
Discussion: Group 5


  1. History Wars, All of it.

Week 8 | Methodology 1: What are the Historian's Methods?

6 March

Blog: Group 4
Comment: Group 5
Discussion: Group 1


  1. Presnell, Information-Literate Historian, Chapters 2-3.
  2. Selections on methodology. (Here, and here.)
  3. Valentina Tikoff, "Not All Orphans Really Are: The Diversity of Seville's Juvenile Charity Wards during the Long Eighteenth Century," in González and Premo, eds., Raising an Empire, pp. 41-74.

Week 9 | Methodology 2: Argument and Method in the Journal Article

13 March

Blog: Group 5
Comment: Group 1
Discussion: Group 2


  1. Presnell, Information-Literature Historian, Chapter 4.
  2. Group I: Histories of Space
  3. Marc Baer, "The Great Fire of 1660 and the Islamicization of Christian and Jewish Space in Instanbul," International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 36.2 (2004): 159-181.
  4. Kathryn J. Oberdeck, "Class, Place, and Gender: Contested Industrial and Domestic Space in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA, 1920-1960," Gender and History 13.1 (2000): 97-137.
  5. Group II: Histories of the "Local"
  6. Sundiata Cha-Jua, "A Warlike Demonstration: Legalism, Violent Self-Help, and Electoral Politics in Decatur, Illinois, 1894-1898," Journal of Urban History 26 (2000): 591-629.
  7. Sarah Farmer, "Down and Out and Female in 13th Century Paris," American Historical Review 104.3 (1998): 344-372.
  8. Group III: Histories of the Visual
  9. Ronald P. Toby, "Carnival of the Aliens: Korean Embassies in Edo Period Art and Popular Culture," Monumenta Nipponica 41.4 (1986): 415-456.
  10. Tamara Matheson, "From Text to Image: Philosophy and the Television Book Show in France, 1953-1968," French Historical Studies 28.4 (2005): 629-659.

Week 10 | Spring Break!!

20 March

No class.

Week 11 | Sources 1: The Problem with Sources

27 March

Blog: Group 1
Comment: Group 2
Discussion: Group 3


  1. Presnell, Information-Literate Historian, Chapters 5-6.
  2. Dobson and Ziemann, Reading Primary Sources, Part 1, 4 chapters from Part 2.

Week 12 | Sources 2: Working with Sources

3 April

Blog: Group 2
Comment: Group 3
Discussion: Dr. Black


  1. Presnell, Information-Literate Historian, Chapters 7-8.
  2. National Security Archive, The Chiquita Papers
  3. National Security Archive, Kennedy and the Cuban Travel Ban
  4. National Security Archive, Iran Contra 20 Years On

Week 13 | Group Editing

10 April

No class. Meet with your writing group and review/edit each others' papers.

Week 14 | Archives

17 April

Blog: Group 3
Comment: Group 4
Discussion: Group 5

Session on campus and digital archives. We will be meeting at Special Collections and walking over to the Baker Center.


  1. Bickford, "The Archival Imperative; Human Rights and Historical Memory in Latin America's Southern Cone," Human Rights Quarterly 21.4 (Nov. 1999): 1097-1122.
  2. Kevin Kelly, "Scan this Book!" The New York Times, 14 May 2006.

Please look at the following websites:

  1. Endangered Archives Program
  2. The 911 Digital Archive
  3. Hurricane Digital Memory Bank

Week 15 | Managing your Research

24 April

Blog: Group 4
Comment: Group 5
Discussion: Group 1

Explore computer tools for managing research.
Read this! The Yale Guide.
This too! Words In Space Student Resources

Week 16 | Presentations

1 May